I’m just throwing this out for comment.
“Direct access” implies that NSA can just root around in Google’s servers whenever they want. That’s big news. Conversely, a story about how companies transfer information to NSA after they get a court order is a complete nothing. Who cares what technical means are used to transfer data to NSA? What we care about is what kind of information NSA is getting, and nothing in the PRISM story has given us any insight into that.
If Snowden really has the technical chops he claims to have, he should have cleared this up. But Greenwald and Gellman apparently didn’t ask about it, and Snowden apparently didn’t volunteer anything. (I say “apparently” because I don’t know for sure who said what to whom.) This suggests either that Snowden didn’t know what this phrase meant or else chose not to explain it properly. Either one raises some red flags.
Do read Drum’s entire post.
Update: Rick Perlstein corroborates that “direct access” probably doesn’t mean what some people assumed it meant.